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The Skirmishes at Quinby Bridge & Shubrick's Plantation

July 17, 1781 in Berkeley County, South Carolina

American Forces Commanded by
Brig. Gen. Thomas Sumter
Strength Killed Wounded Missing / Captured
705 ? ? ?
British Forces Commanded by
Lt. Col. James Coates
Strength Killed Wounded Missing / Captured
600 ? ? ?
Conclusion: American Victory

Lumpkin presents Sumter’s forces for this date as follows:

CONTINENTALS - Lee's Legion: 150, both horse and foot, Lieut. Col. Henry Lee

SOUTH CAROLINA MILITIA - Sumter’s Brigade: 225, [Sumter’s five regiments] Col. Thomas Taylor, Col. Edward Lacey, Col. Wade Hampton, Col. Thomas Polk [North Carolina], Col. Charles Myddleton

Marion’s Brigade: 180, Brig. Gen. Francis Marion, Col. Peter Horry, Col. Hezekiah Maham, Maj. Alexander Swinton, Capt. John Baxter

1 six-pounder, Capt. Anthony Singleton

Allowing 40-50 artillerymen for Singleton, this gives a round total of about 600. Despite Lumpkin’s list, some of Sumter’s commanders were probably not with the main body of troops, but were with the 300 men sent to Murry’s Ferry on the 15th or 16th. McCrady gives Sumter’s strength as 700.

For Coates’ force see 14 July.

At about 3 am on the 17th, Sumter’s camp was awakened by the sight of Biggin Church on fire in the distance. Coates realizing the difficult situation he was now placed in, and in a hurry to retreat to Charleston, burned most of his stores and ammunition which he had placed there. Gathering his men he proceeded across Wadboo Bridge on his way south. He had three possible avenues of retreat: over Biggin Bridge down the west side of the Cooper River towards Goose Creek; or over Wadboo Bridge down the east side of the Cooper River toward Strawberry Ferry or, again down the east side of the Cooper River but toward Quniby Bridge. With his 19th Regt. he decided to march toward Quinby Bridge, yet his cavalry under Fraser he sent toward Charleston by way of Strawberry Ferry. Coates was under the impression that it was Greene himself who he faced. Before leaving Biggin, he left a note at the church addressed to Greene, along with some sick and wounded behind, saying there was at present a balance of prisoners in favor of Great Britain, and asked that the invalids be "treated in that Light," with humanity, and that they be sent to Charleston.

His troops roused, Sumter went in pursuit of Coates, his cavalry forces racing ahead of his infantry. In the hurry to catch up with the British, Sumter left behind his six-pounder under Capt. Anthony Singleton, a decision he would regret later in the day. With regard to the American reaction to Coates sudden evacuation, Lee, year later wrote: “To our surprise and mortification, no opposition at the bridge [Wadboo Bridge] had taken place; and indeed our inquiries terminated in the conviction that the detachment destined to occupy the post [Horry’s] had abandoned it a few hours after they had been sent to possess it. Hence arose our ignorance of Coates’ movement, which could not have occurred had the militia party continued at their post, and to which ignorance the foe owed his escape.”

Lee and Hampton led chase, crossing over Wadboo bridge which had either not been fully destroyed or had been repaired in the night by Coates. Seeing that Coates had divided his forces, Wade Hampton rode in the direction of Strawberry Ferry. Yet by the time he reached there, Fraser had already crossed; the flats in his possession on the opposite side. Lee’s and Maham’s cavalry, with Marion’s infantry in their wake, meanwhile followed Coates’ trail in the direction of Quinby. Somewhere about a mile north of the bridge, they overtook Coates’ rear guard and baggage under the command of Capt. Colin Campbell. When Lee and Marion deployed against them in their front and on the flank the inexperienced British troops prepared to receive them. But when the order was given to fire, the recruits did not discharge their muskets, but intimidated by the presence of the American cavalry fell into disorder. In a matter of moments, they surrendered upon being summoned to do so. About 100 were taken prisoner, as well as the baggage.

The American then continued their advance, and when Capt. Armstrong of the Legion cavalry reached Quinby Bridge he found that Coates’ main body had already crossed. Not certain whether he should continue over the bridge, which Coates’ men had already begun dismantling, Armstrong sent back to Lee asking whether he should attack, yet without mentioning that the bridge stood before him. Lee, in a huff, replied by messenger that the orders of the day was to attack all before them. Armstrong with the first section of the Legion cavalry galloped over the bridge, with the second under Lieut. George Carrington following behind, both knocking off some of the loosened planks of the bridge as they did so. Coates had prepared his howitzer to receive them, but so sudden and unexpected was the charge that the men manning the gun, as well as the work party at the bridge, fled before them. The rest of Coates men who were in a disorganized state along a restricting causeway, were for while helpless to organize themselves to face the attack, and many fled. Coates himself and a few of his officers, separated from their men, took a position behind some wagons from where they parried saber thrusts with the Legion dragoons. The third section of Lee’s cavalry under Capt. Ferdinand O’Neal (also O’Neale) halted at Bridge. Maham and his cavalry then attempted to get over the now flimsy bridge to support Armstrong and Carrington, but having his horse shot out from under him, he and his men were checked from proceeding. Capt. James McCauley and some of Marion’s infantry, however, were able to continue on and made it over to assist Armstrong’s isolated dragoons. Lee, (now coming up from the rear), and Maham tried to repair the bridge, but with little success. In the meantime, Coates men began forming up to counterattack. Armstrong, Carrington, and McCauley, after some heated close quarters fighting in which they already lost at least two killed and a number wounded, seeing themselves in risk of being surrounded broke through the British ranks and made their escape through some woods. Moving down and circling round the end of the creek, they finally rejoined the rest of the Lee’s and Marion’s forces, who were coming to approach Coates from that quarter. “Lee frustrated in his attempt to repair the bridge adequately and give immediate support to Armstrong, etc. marched the remainder of the cavalry up Quinby Creek where Francis Marion joined him with his infantry and the Legion infantry.” While this was happening Coates had his howitzer and his men withdrawn to Shubrick’s plantation nearby where they fortified themselves and awaited the American attack.

Lee and Marion having forded the stream moved up through the woods, and advanced to the edge of the open fields lying around the plantation. There they halted and surveyed Coates’ position. The Shubrick’s home was two story building situated on a rising ground, with numerous outbuildings making it impregnable to cavalry and very formidable to infantry. Lee and Marion decided it was too strong to attack. They then paused and awaited Sumter, who came up about 3 pm. Despite Lee and Marion’s objections, and the fact that the artillery would be a long time in arriving, Sumter decided to attack. At 4 pm the fighting began, with Sumter having deployed his men in the nearby slave buildings, while putting his cavalry and the Legion infantry in the reserve. A steady ongoing fire between Coates’ and Sumter’s men ensued without doing significant harm to either.

Sumter then ordered up Col. Thomas Taylor with 45 men to take a strategically situated fence. Taylor’s men moving up came under heavy fire, and were driven back by a bayonet charge led by Capt. Scerett. Marion’s musket and riflemen rushed up to aid Taylor and took position at the fence themselves, lying low on the ground for protection as they fired. There they remained taking many casualties till finally having run out of ammunition they were forced to fall back. The battle having run for about two or three hours, Sumter withdrew back across Quinby Bridge (by this time repaired) and camped some three miles from Shubrick’s, after leaving the cavalry to collect the dead and wounded. Singleton with the six-pounder and more ammunition having arrived Sumter intended to resume the attack on the morrow, but was met with thinly disguised ire from his lieutenants. Col. Thomas Taylor and his men were particularly angry at having been needlessly exposed to suffer so many losses, Marion’s men feeling similarly. By the next day, all of Marion’s men had gone home except for one company of about 100 men. Lee, as well unhappy with how things were going, departed with his legion to rejoin Greene’s army in the High Hills of the Santee. In consequence of all of which, Sumter decided not to the battle, and the next day fell back across the Santee having earlier arranged for boats for such a crossing. Meanwhile, Col Paston Gould came up from Charleston with 200 men, Boatner says 700, to support Coates, but by that time Sumter and the rest had left.

Although the Dogs Days Expedition has been described as failure, due to the escape of Coates and Fraser, the simple facts remain that though both side's losses in killed and wounded appear to have been about the same, the British as a result of the expedition were dislodged from their posts as Dorchester and Monck's Corner; the Americans took some 140 prisoners, the British none; and the Americans captured around 200-300 horses, an ammunition wagon, plus some of Coates' baggage, including a paymaster's chest of 720 guineas, taken along with Coates rear guard. The money was afterward given out by Sumter to his men as payment, each man receiving a guinea. Marion's men, however, not operating under Sumter's law, did not receive any.


AMERICAN - Sumter, in a letter to Greene of 25 July wrote: “At the Quarter House on the 15th Instt We lost one man and offr Kild, at the Church on the 17th one Wounded, at Shoebricks the 18th Twelve Kild & Twenty two wounded.” These numbers do not appear to have included Marion’s losses.

On the 19th, Marion reported his own losses to Greene as: “Lt Col [Alexander] Swinton Maj [John] Baxter and ten men wounded and five killed; on the Left with Lt Col. Hugh Horry[,] one Captn Killed & three privates; woud [wounded] one Captn and five wounded.” Swinton and Baxter were so severely wounded that they were subsequently forced to retire from the service.

BRITISH - Sumter, in his letter to Greene of 25 July wrote: “The Loss of the enemy Certain, is one offr & 9 privates Kild, one Capt, 8 Subs, 1 Conductor of Artiy, 5 Sergts, 4 Master of Vessels, and 123 privates british, and 8 Tories.

This Exclusive of their loss Kild at Shoebricks, Which undoubtedly was Very Considerable & by best accounts was upwards of 70 men Kild." According, however, to Sumter’s letters to Greene of 17 and 19 July, however, British losses at Shubrick’s were not “considerable.”

Ripley: “A Charles town newspaper recorded British Casualties at 6 dead and 39 wounded, and estimated Sumter's at 40 dead. However, the Gazette account omits mention of losses during the fighting between Monck's Corner and Shubricks.”


On July 23rd, Greene wrote Gen, Sumner: "In our late movements towards Chs Town we took 140 Prisoners and killed and Wounded near 100 more, and destroyed a prodigious quantity of Baggage and Stores, and took upwards of 200 Horses. Our Militia fought valiantly, and we lost but few Men notwithstanding."

In a letter to Lafayette of July 24, he wrote similarly: "There was taken in the expedition about 140 prisoners and enemies loss in killed and wounded is thought to be little short [of 140] as the firing lasted upwards of two hours at not more than from forty to Eighty yards distance. We destroyed four vessel loads of Stores upwards of 70 hogsheads of rum and many other Stores. At biggins Church took 200 horses and several Waggons and one loaded with ammunition...Our loss in the different attacks was...not more than 20 killed and about forty wounded, among which are several officers."

Among the stores Sumter captured was the pay chest of 720 guineas, which Sumter had distributed among his own men (only.)

Lee: “[Capt. Armstrong of Lee’s cavalry, with the most far advanced of the American troops] Seeing the enemy with the bridge interposed, which he knew to be contrary to the commandant’s expectation’s, this gallant officer drew u, and sent back for orders -– never communicating the fact that the bridge intervened. Lee, sending his adjutant to the captain, warmly reminded him of the order of the day, which was to fall upon the foe without respect to consequences. Stung with this answer, the brave Armstrong put spur to his horse at the head of his section, and threw himself over the bridge upon the guard stationed there with the howitzer. So sudden was this charge that he drove all before him –- the soldiers abandoning their piece. Some of the loose planks were dashed off by Armstrong’s section, which forming a chasm in the bridge presented a dangerous obstacle. Nevertheless the section section [of the Legion cavalry], headed by Lieutenant Carrington, took the leap and closed with Armstrong, then engaged in a personal combat with Lieutenant-Colonel Coates, who placing himself on the side of a wagon which with a few others had kept up with the main body, effectually parried the many sabre strokes, aimed at his head. Most of his soldiers, appalled at the sudden and daring attack, had abandoned their colonel, and were running through the field, some with, some without arms, to take shelter in the farm house.”

William Dobein James: “The enemy had time to recover from their panic, and to post themselves in Col. Shubrick's house and out houses, which were near. After some delay, Sumter arrived and ordered an attack, which was led on by Marion, whose men, and a regiment of Sumter's, under Col. Thomas Taylor, marched up in open ground, with a view of gaining a fence near the houses; and were exposed to a most galling fire, from riflemen aiming at them from behind cover. More than fifty were killed and wounded, generally of Marion's men, who were most exposed. Capt. Perry and Lieut. June, of his brigade, were killed; and Lieut. Col. John Baxter, who was very conspicuous, from his gigantic size and full uniform, received five wounds; Major {Alexander]Swinton was also severely wounded. A retreat was ordered. The attack was made against Marion's opinion, who blamed Sumter afterwards for wasting the lives of his men. But, with such a force, Sumter had not the disposition to be idle, and wanted only a field piece to have ensured success. Col. Coates had now the command of boats, and a wide river before him, and could easily have effected his retreat in that way to Charleston; but Sumter did not attack him again; because, it was said, a reinforcement was coming to his assistance. After this, Gen. Marion retired to the Santee, and took post at Cordes', and afterwards at Peyre's plantation, near the mouth of the present Santee canal, where he reposed his men and horses, until about the 25th of August.”

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